LPN vs. CNA

The responsibilities of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) may appear similar at first glance, but each role has important distinctions. Generally, CNAs act as a liaison between patients and nurses. As the entry-level position in nursing, many nurses from LPNs to RNs begin their nursing careers as CNAs. CNAs are responsible for taking measurements such as height and weight, recording vital signs, and helping patients bathe, dress, or perform other daily requirements. By performing these basic care needs, CNAs allow LPNs and RNs to take care of more complex tasks that their further training and education required.

Compared with CNAs, LPNs have much more responsibility and more power in patient care. Because of their more in-depth training, Licensed Nurses are able to assist with the administration of medication, catheter insertion, wound care, and patient assessment. In addition, LPNs are often in charge of work done by CNAs. Because they have additional and more complex responsibilities, LPNs need more refined critical thinking skills and a deeper knowledge base than CNAs.

The advantages of CNA to LPN programs include increased responsibility, more job opportunities, and increased salary.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics lists median annual income for CNAs as $24,400; depending on their state, LPNs can enjoy an average annual income of approximately $20,000 more than that.

CNA to LPN Programs

Because each state has its own board of nursing and particular clinical and educational requirements, CNA programs vary widely from state to state. High school diplomas are required to become a CNA, though no previous nursing knowledge is required. CNA programs can be as short as two weeks to as long as three months. These programs include classroom learning and some supervised clinical hours. After completing this training, students take their state’s certification test, which typically includes both a written portion as well as a hands-on test.

LPN programs, while they may vary from one state to another, are much more stringent in their requirements. Practical Nursing programs are offered in several states as well as online to help CNAs further their nursing careers by becoming LPNs. Experience as a CNA provides valuable skills for those wishing to become Licensed Practical Nurses, which can come in handy as students take LPN coursework.

CNA to LPN programs are designed to provide CNAs the opportunity to continue their training in the nursing profession by becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse.

These programs typically have requirements that include:

  • Immunizations
  • Background check
  • Current valid Certified Nursing Assistant certificate from state where you live and practice
  • High school and/or college transcripts
  • Overall GPA of at least 2.0 (or sometimes higher, depending on state requirements)
  • CPR certification
  • Completion of certain academic prerequisites

CNA to LPN programs can generally be done in 12-18 months and consist of about 27-30 credits. Most programs are flexible and can be done either part time or full time. Most programs ask that students are able to devote 30 or more hours each week to class work and studies.

Because CNA programs vary so much per state requirements, CNA to LPN programs do, as well. Typically, a CNA is able to transfer their education and certificate as a Nurse Assistant in as prerequisites or introduction courses in a Practical Nursing program. This practice can effectively shorten the duration of LPN coursework. From there, CNA to LPN programs are very similar to other LPN programs, with classwork in subjects like anatomy and physiology, ethics, and nursing fundamentals. These programs also include clinical experiences, as well. After completing a CNA to LPN program, students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN); after passing this exam, these nurses are legally eligible for employment.

CNA to LPN Online Programs

Just as there are a variety of online and hybrid LPN programs, there are also a range of online and hybrid CNA to LPN programs.

Most online offerings for these programs will include classroom work on general subjects, with the largest difference between online vs. in-person class work being how classes are run. Online courses will have students engage with their instructors and classmates through a variety of ways, including discussion boards, video or slideshow lectures, collaborative projects, and more. Most online courses allow students to complete coursework at their own rate, though certain subjects and/or assignments may be subject to more restrictions.

Though LPN students can undertake a large amount of their class work online, practicum experiences and labs are still required to be completed in laboratory and healthcare settings. Some CNA to LPN programs that are online help students in connecting with a local setting to complete these requirements, but it is imperative that students take extra responsibility, as they are required to act more independently as an online learner.

Students considering an online CNA to LPN program should check with their state and school requirements to see what accredited offerings are available near them.